Wednesday, November 23, 2011

On Freedom Pt II: the Shackles of Democracy by Jersey Campbell

Jersey Campbell apologizes for being a week late with this post. But he's not getting paid or anything so who cares right? 
It is strongly recommended that you read Pt. I before tackling the conclusion.
                So where does all this talk of cause and effect and everything effecting everything take us? Even if we are not willing to concede the nonexistence of freedom, we can still hold on to the philosophy of freedom by embracing a democracy fundamentally opposed to the government we have now. (I trust we all know that America is not a democracy, but a representative republic.)

                The American government was founded on principles of freedom. These principles are murky and serve as the arguments against social programs and civic duty mandates. This type of freedom encourages individuals to think individualistically rather than as part of a larger society. The reason for this is to keep everyone motivated. According to American folklore we are all self interested people who look after our own interests before looking out for others. That may be true. It also may be true that the doctrine of self-interest has been imposed on us, and if the doctrine of a collective identity and helping out fellow people were preached we’d be going to Washington with torches and pitchforks if they tried to defund government programs.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau
                We’re taking a page strait outta Rousseau’s book. The type of freedom we are concerned with here has commonly been referred to as positive, or moral, freedom. Instead of the liberty to build a ranch on a plot of land or the liberty to sell high interest loans to low income families, the only liberty we have would be the liberty to be voices in the body politic. Rousseau referred to this as being forced to be free. It’s only forceful freedom if looking at it through the lens of how freedom is defined today. 
                Here me out. I’ve said before that we are slaves of circumstance, as our environment largely dictates who we are and the actions we will perform in the future. The only way for us to collectively control our environment is by dictating the terms of our lives in regards to all other individuals around us. As it stands, we can do all the dictating we want, but the negative freedoms of others hamper our ability to dictate the most important factor in who we become- our situation.
                What we practice now is uncontrolled freedom. Uncontrolled freedom usurps true, positive freedom. Not only does it turn the collective into shards of individualism, it also prevents large-scale compromises and a more robust understanding of the human condition.
                We have sacrificed an inherently altruistic and considerate government for a selfish and inconsiderate government. There are special interests tearing up the system and fighting for pieces of the pie while basic human interests are forgotten or ignored. Special interests are the consequence of the negative liberty we practice. People who want the same thing from the government mobilize and influence decision making any way they can. These similar situated individuals got together and rampaged the government to the point where elected officials had no choice but to appease the demands of these groups.
The problem with special interests is that they don’t care how their wants affect the wants of the whole. In a self-interested society, the groups that the society creates will be self-interested as well. If everything affects everything, then the plurality has some widespread consequences that can hurt a lot of people, just as the actions of one individual can have widespread consequences for all individuals.
This is why a psychological shift in how we view freedom is a welcome transformation. The freedom to control our conditions is true freedom. Activating the silent voices in the polity can lead us into an era of democracy. With all involved in the making of the rules we are forced to live under, no one group will have undue influence or power over others. True freedom and true democracy are eternal companions. While neither may be attainable, it doesn’t mean we shouldn't strive to practice these principles. 
Although we are slaves of circumstance, democracy offers a way for us to be the slave masters as well.

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